Why Pennsylvania is a Great State for Solar Power

Everyone knows that solar power only makes sense in sunny states like Arizona and California.

Or at least that's something that a lot of folks think they know.

But in a world where groundbreaking scientific discoveries occur every day, what a lot of people think they know has a way of turning out false.

And nowhere is that more true than with regard to solar power.

Consider Pennsylvania, one of the top ten cloudiest states in the nation. Pittsburgh alone gets as many fully cloudy days as perennially rainy Seattle—and even more partly cloudy ones.

Yet, Pennsylvanians have installed over 805 Megawatts of solar energy, enough to power 100,000 homes.

Nor are homeowners and small businesses the only ones reaping the financial benefits of going solar in PA. Major corporations like Crayola, IKEA, and Johnson & Johnson have all transitioned their Pennsylvania operations to solar.

None of this ought to be surprising given what a financial windfall going solar turns out to be for residents of the Keystone State. To quote William Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 43, "Let us count the ways."

Return on Investment

Pennsylvania homeowners who install a solar system wind up with an average ROI of 7.42%.

When Warren Buffet rigorously analyzed stock market gains from 1950–2009, he found that investors only averaged around a 7% annual return, making solar power in PA the better investment.

Payback Period

The average payback period for homeowners who install a solar system in PA averages 14.89 years.

Your solar panels, on the other hand, will have an expected lifetime of 25-to-30 years. That means the average Pennsylvania resident who goes solar winds up getting 10 to 15 years of free electricity.

Reduced Electric Rate

Pennsylvania homeowners who install a solar system wind up paying an average of 6.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the electricity it generates over its 25-to-30-year lifetime.

PA utility companies, on the other hand, were charging an average of 17.99 cents per kWh as of January 2023, the most recent date for which figures are available.

That means PA's solar-equipped residents have reduced the price they pay for electricity down to almost a third of the current going rate. Moreover, they'll be saving even more money over time as utility electric rates inevitably keep climbing.

What makes Pennsylvania great for solar?

Increased solar panel efficiency together with declining production costs are a big part of why solar power has become such a financial windfall for PA residents.

In 2010, the average power output of a standard 72-cell solar panel was 290 watts. Fast forward to today, and the same panel will give you at least 345 watts of power at one-tenth the price.

But it isn’t just technology that’s tipped the balance sheet so heavily towards solar in PA. From a regulatory perspective, Pennsylvania is one of the most solar-friendly states in the country.

Solar-friendly regulations

  • Pennsylvania guarantees you’ll be compensated for any excess solar energy you send back into the grid at the full retail rate.
    Any extra solar power your panels produce during peak sunshine is, thus, effectively banked to power your home when there’s little or no sun. That makes it possible for a simple rooftop system to meet all of a typical PA resident’s annual energy needs.

  • Unlike many other states that also require full retail net metering, Pennsylvania doesn’t allow utility companies to effectively welch on their obligation to pay full retail rates by adding exorbitant surcharges.

  • Many other states that require full retail net metering also impose an "end of the year tally," at which point residents lose any credit they've accumulated for the solar energy they've sent back into the grid. Whereas, PA residents actually get an end-of-the-year cash payout for any unused net-metering credits.

  • Pennsylvania is also one of the few states that require virtual net metering. That means you can use the credits you’ve gained from sending solar energy back into the grid at one property to pay for energy you took from it at another.

All told, the facts about solar energy in PA are clear.

We may not be the sunniest state in the union, but typical PA residents who go solar are looking at a considerably brighter financial future.

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